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Styron, largest PS supplier, begins independent ops: “Let the tiger out of the cage”

In March 2010 Bain Capital Partners announced its intent to acquire the Styron business division of The Dow Chemical Company, and this week the sale officially was completed. Paul Moyer, VP plastics of the newly formed independent company, took time out from a busy first day at the 'new' firm to tell PlasticsToday where Styron is headed.

In March 2010 Bain Capital Partners announced its intent to acquire the Styron business division of The Dow Chemical Company, and this week the sale officially was completed. Paul Moyer, VP plastics of the newly formed independent company, took time out from a busy first day at the 'new' firm to tell PlasticsToday where Styron is headed.

Stryon's Paul Moyer
Stryon's Paul Moyer, VP Plastics
For processors used to sourcing from Styron, and even for its own employees, the changes since the acquisition was announced have been minimal, said Moyer. Business has continued as it always has, but new is that the independent supplier will invest even more effort in what he says are its "unrivaled customer relationships." He added, "Within Dow, we were one of many. Now, these (materials) are what makes Styron...We intend to really increase our customer focus, and pay attention to our innovation pipeline."

 Stryon's plastics portfolio includes polystyrene (PS) - both general purpose and high impact (HIPS), plus expandable PS, copolymers ABS and SAN, and compounds based on polycarbonate (PC), PS and polypropylene (this last only for the automotive industry). It produce styrene-based plastics (PS, EPS, ABS and SAN) at two manufacturing facilities in China and one each in the U.S., Brazil, Indonesia, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands. It has a PC plant in Germany, and compounding sites in Taiwan and The Netherlands. Back-integration to styrene monomer is via a facility in Germany.

Ask Moyer for an example of what processors can soon expect from that innovation pipeline and he cites a second generation of the firm's Styron A-Tech HIPS, introduced in the early part of this century. The material has become the standard for refrigerator liners and some other appliance applications, he said, and now a second generation of the material is due to enter commercial markets later this year. The new grades will allow even further downgauging, and in fact a third generation will follow soon thereafter, he said.

The company is seeing strong demand pull in all of the end-use markets it serves, said Moyer, with significant growth in automotive, appliances, consumer electronics and building & construction. Packaging, another major end-use market, "remains a bright spot," he said, with the others now turning hot after cold spells during the 2008/09 recession.

Looking ahead, Moyer said Styron's new owner, private equity firm Bain, "sees our portfolio and sees the potential in it that we've seen for years." The strategy going forward will be to drive top-line growth, he added, with the new ownership and focus helping the supplier now to be more agile and focused: "Let the tiger out of the cage and let it run" is how he describes the new mood within the company.

Styron has global leadership positions in supply of latex and PS, with the company earning about $3.7 billion in revenue last year. Twenty manufacturing sites and 1900 employees based in 30 countries make up the supplier. Moyer's 24-year career with Dow, prior to joining Styron, included a number of different positions and stations, with his last role at Dow serving as GM for its PC, compounds/blends and styrenics businesses. Moyer also serves on the board of Americas Styrenics, a joint venture with CPChem, a unit of Chevron Phillips.

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